Andrea Gabrieli (1532 – 1585) and Giovanni Gabrieli (c. 1554 – 1612)

Andrea Gabrieli (1532 – 1585) and his nephew, Giovanni Gabrieli (c. 1554 – 1612), are known for their sacred compositions which were written for St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy, where each was composer and organist. They were members of the Venitian School of northern Italy, known for its unique responsorial polychoral style. St. Mark’s was particularly spacious and resonant, producing much echo and delay between the two opposing choir lofts. Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli and their predecessors used those sound characteristics to advantage in several ways. They developed a polychoral style marked by antiphonal effects. St. Mark’s organ and instrumental accompaniment could bridge the delay between the two choirs when positioned between them. In language of the mid-20th century, high fidelity was fine for the conservative Roman school and its a cappella choral music, but music of the Gabrieli’s and the Venintian school required close-up stereo.

The Gabrieli’s were known not only for incorporating string and brass instruments into their choral works, but also for introduced dynamic markings into their music. They and others of the Venetian School introduced a new style of music to Europe, including sacred music with instrumental accompaniment and secular music at a time that the influence of the Catholic Church upon sacred choral music was declining. They introduced the Baroque characteristics of terraced dynamics. The crescendo and decrescendo was not introduced to music until the Mannheim school introduced its famous “Mannheim crescendo” at the end of the Baroque period during the Rococo bridge into the Classical Period. Rather, the Gabrieli’s used dynamic markings for sections or responsorial phrases of music, as the word “terraced” suggests. It most often was in the form of a loud, short phrase followed by a spatially separate performing group statement repeating or imitatingf that phrase, at a softer level as though it were an echo. It was only natural to do so given the acoustical properties of St. Mark’s Basilica and its choir lofts at opposing sides of the congregation.

Baroque music also saw the development of instrumental music as an extension of that incorporated by the Gabrieli’s in St. Mark’s. The Gabrieli’s music was characterized by a rhythmic drive, which also became a characteristic of the Baroque music that followed.

In a society that was becoming more mobile, Europe was experiencing greater artistic communication among France, England, German states, and Italian city states. Whereas many European composers visited Italy to experience its music and to learn from it, Andrea Gabrieli traveled to Germany to learn from Orlando de Lassus, who had become well known throughout Europe as a progressive composer of both sacred and secular music. Giovanni Gabrieli also studied in Germany. In time, other European composers came to Venice to study with Giovanni Gabrieli.

Following the death of his uncle, Giovanni Gabrieli edited and published much of Andrea’s work.

See the following sites for a sampling of Andrea Gabrieli’s compositions:
Organ of the time playing his music with view of interior



Missa “Quando Lieta Sperai”(1572)-
Gloria -Ensamble CANTIMBANCO

Agnus Dei

See the following sites for a sampling of Andrea Gabrieli’s compositions:
Sacrae Symphoniae – Sonata pian e forte, in which you will note the effect of terraced dynamics:

Sonata XIII

The Pope is in attendance at this nuanced performance.

Magnificat a 14

In Ecclesiis A 14

Jubilate Deo

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